More than ever, consumers demand to be seen, heard and informed. Today’s increasingly assertive shoppers embrace technology trends that democratize the marketplace and allow them to add their voices to the disruptive and noisy retail sector.

Innovation gives shoppers greater power. Deloitte notes, “Empowered by social networks and digital devices, consumers … have become both critics and creators, demanding a more personalized service and … the opportunity to shape the products” they consume.1Deloitte. The Deloitte Consumer Review: The growing power of consumers. 2014.

Since technology impacts shopping behavior, understanding the following seven tech trends can help retailers and suppliers of all sizes connect directly with today’s savvy, sophisticated shoppers and improve the customer experience.

1. Social Media

Today, social media is the media. Consumers turn to pervasive, powerful platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see which retailers, suppliers, products and trends are popular among their networks. Following retail companies on social media lets shoppers share direct questions or comments, and receive access to exclusive coupons, contests, events and promotions. The social media microscope promotes superior customer service, as retail companies face public pressure to protect their brands by resolving issues in real time. Such responsiveness may explain why 43% of consumers said raising issues with a company via social media is more effective than contacting it directly.2Crabtree, Justina. Three new ways tech-savvy retailers will be connecting with you in 2017. CNBC. December 23, 2016. Retail’s social media superstars include Amazon, Nike and Nordstrom, as they excel at sparking word of mouth with exciting, relevant content.3O’Shea, Dan. Amazon, Nike, Nordstrom lead the way in social media, word-of-mouth chatter. Retail Dive. May 10, 2017.

2. User-Generated Content

Easy and accessible, digital and social media allows consumers to publish and share their own product-related posts. For instance, home improvement retailer Lowe’s encouraged consumers to create six-second videos of do-it-yourself solutions, and Starbucks shares photos of coffee lovers savoring their food and beverages.4Simpson, Jack. 10 excellent examples of user-generated content in marketing campaigns. Econsultancy. February 22, 2016. User-generated content can strengthen consumers’ relationships because publishing consumers’ creative ideas gives shoppers the spotlight and may convert them into passionate brand advocates.

3. Online Crowdsourcing

With crowdsourcing, retailers and suppliers ask consumers to share their ideas with the intention of co-creating innovative new products. Through social media and corporate websites, companies ask consumers which new products they would love to see on store shelves. To keep up with growing demand for health and wellness, PepsiCo turned to crowdsourcing for new protein sources with ‘easy to pronounce’ names and Mondelez launched #MyOreoCreation, a social media contest to encourage fans to speak up and influence its next cookie flavors.5Kirkpatrick, David. Oreo is letting fans come up with its next flavors. Marketing Dive. May 9, 2017.6Loria, Keith. PepsiCo, Mondelez turn to crowdsourcing to help find new ingredients. May 9, 2017.

4. Online Reviews

Online reviews allow consumers to candidly share their opinions and measurable feedback, often on a five-star scale, on powerhouse sites like Amazon, Facebook and Google. How influential are online reviews? An astonishing 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business and consumers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews.7Saleh, Khalid. The Importance Of Online Customer Reviews [Infographic]. Invesp. 2015. Listening to shoppers through online and social media reviews gives retail companies a chance to prove their willingness to continuously improve their products and service.

5. Instant Messaging

Instant messaging has emerged as a powerful tech trend among retail companies. Messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp help consumers connect with retail companies directly and receive prompt, personalized customer service – even if it’s from an automated chatbot. Mintel’s research found up to 59% of consumers surveyed would like to be able to contact consumer service through an instant messenger, as “people increasingly speak to brands as easily and informally as they would with their friends.”8Crabtree, Justina. Three new ways tech-savvy retailers will be connecting with you in 2017. CNBC. December 23, 2016.

6. E-commerce

Beyond the convenience of online shopping, consumers appreciate the opportunity to purchase directly from suppliers so they can feel certain and clear about what they’re buying. Online shopping platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce and Magento help to level the playing field for suppliers of all sizes. E-commerce also helps consumers easily discover and buy unique, authentic products from their local area, which can reduce supply chain costs while supporting local communities.

7. Dynamic Pricing

To score the best deals, savvy shoppers proactively seek pricing information before they buy. As a result, dynamic pricing is growing in popularity. Dynamic pricing means retailers set flexible prices based on current market demands by constantly monitoring competitive pricing strategies and adjusting their own pricing. For instance, last year on Black Friday, Amazon used dynamic pricing to change its prices of highly competitive items multiple times per day to remain competitive during retail’s hottest holiday season.9Baird, Nikki Dynamic Pricing: When Should Retailers Bother? Forbes. April 18, 2017.

All seven of these trends involve deepening consumers’ relationship with retailers and suppliers by improving communication, service and information-sharing. Consider how adopting these tech trends can help your retail company make today’s discerning, empowered shoppers feel special, heard and willing to buy from you.

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